UN arms treaty blocked by Iran, Syria, North Korea


The United States expressed regret Thursday after Iran, Syria and North Korea moved to block the United Nation’s unanimous adoption of the first global arms trade treaty.

Diplomats said they expect the small arms treaty to pass, however, in a vote at the United Nations General Assembly next week.

“We think an overwhelming majority of states will vote in favor,” Tom Countryman, the US Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Cooperation, said in a press call Thursday night.

“I’m happy to vote the opposite direction of such states as Iran, North Korea, and Syria on this text,” Countryman added.

Iran’s envoy to the United Nations Mohammad Khazaee said Iran objected to the current text of the treaty on several grounds, including that it would seek to curb weapons transfers to non-state groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah that Iran supports. The treaty draft completely ignores “the inalienable right to self-determination of peoples under foreign occupation or alien and colonial domination…just to appease that State and its staunch ally in the Middle East,” he told the UN arms treaty conference Thursday.

The current draft also “ignores the legitimate demand by a large number of States to prohibit the transfer of arms to those who commit aggression,” Iran’s envoy also said.

Joining Iran and Syria in opposition to the treaty were some groups in the United States, including the gun lobby group the NRA and the conservative Heritage Foundation.

The United States, the leading arms supplier in the world, had pushed last year for the arms treaty to be adopted by consensus, thus giving an opening for any single state to block its unanimous passage.

US envoy Countryman defended that position in the call Thursday.

“First, we believe in the principle of consensus and we insisted upon it in establishing this conference,” he said. “It’s important to the United States in the defense of our interests to insist on consensus….[and] there are other ways to adopt this treaty, including via vote of the General Assembly.”

Diplomats said they expected the chair of the arms treaty conference, Australian Ambassador to the UN in Geneva Peter Woolcott, to bring the treaty to a vote at the UN General Assembly on April 2.

(Photo by Luke Vargas, @TheCourier, of the UN’s Talk Radio News Service.)